Friday, January 23, 2009

The Law Of Averages

I went to Paris this week hoping to accomplish two things: watch the Inauguration around some other Americans, and find a skirt.

If you remember, I've been on this skirtquest for at least a year. So I was skeptical that I'd be able to find anything, even with the sales on.

The Inauguration part seemed easy. There are lots of Americans in Paris, even in January, plus the French seemed to be interested in keeping tabs on the swearing in of President Obama.

But the idea of standing around some sports bar watching on a giant screen seemed wrong. I saw that they'd be showing it at the American Library so I went for that.

At the last minute a friend invited me over to watch on TV with him and his mother but by then I'd whipped myself into a rare patriotic frenzy and was hellbent on the library.

tour eiffel

I emerged from the train station, looked up and the Eiffel Tower caught me completely off guard. It was so beautiful silhoutted there at the end of a deserted street, I knew I'd made the right choice. Stopped off at a bakery and got a pear almond tart. I wolfed it down on the street so I wouldn't be distracted by hunger.

The library was very homey and a little shabby and I felt like I was back in Brooklyn or Nashville or Cleveland, not at one of the big fancy libraries but an outpost. Perfectly unglamorous. The place was pretty full, everyone focused on a screen in the corner of the main room. There were all kinds of people, a lot of them obviously stopping off on their way home from work. American, French, English. Aretha came on the screen in her hat. "You go girl," someone had to say. A little bit of whooping and cheering.


And then the screen went blank. Murmuring, rustling. "The wireless cut out!"

Not to worry. Everyone started shouting suggestions. "Find a TV!"

Precious minutes went by. A lot of people left in search of a bar. The librarian wheeled out a big old TV. Then they couldn't find anywhere to plug it in. Someone found an extension cord and stretched it across a bookshelf. But when the TV came on there was still no picture. "Where's the remote?"

let's see if this old thing works

Scuffling, more of an exodus, everyone was getting desperate by now. A camera crew came in, initially to film people watching the historic moment but now getting everyone's reaction to missing it.

I got distracted for a little while in the biography section. I was reading about Julia Child's first trip to Paris, back in 1950, when I heard shouts. "We've got a radio!"

So, we had wireless, the old-fashioned kind. Too bad the French translator pretty much obscured and banalized everything Obama said. I got to read it all in the Herald Tribune next day, on the train back home. A brand new skirt in the Bon Marché bag next to me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Many Called, Few Chosen

I was in the Intermarché supermarket and I felt myself inflating slightly with American pride when City of New Orleans came piping in amongst the citrus and dried fruit section. Ah, Arlo Guthrie. Hearing him sing the song in person, once when I opened for him at the Keswick Theatre and two summers ago at the Rhythm Festival thrilled me, and it's moving to hear his recorded version. But a line or two in, it became clear that this was a lame lackluster imitation and I felt a double dose of shame. One for that little moment of misplaced patriotism and the other for shopping at lunchtime in France.

I was relieved when I found out the Intermarché nearby is now open all day Friday and Saturday, because we're often too disorganized to get to the store before the usual lunchtime closing hours of 12 to 3. But I felt sheepish limping in there at 1:15 pm or so, and paranoid that the often unpleasant clerks were even more disdainful than ever because shouldn't they be having lunch with the rest of the country?

I'm thinking about America a lot lately. I've had this feeling of anticipation, ever since Obama was elected, that it's only a matter of time before I receive a phone call telling me I'm needed in Washington. There's a petition circulating asking for the institution of a Secretary of the Arts. I know, voting, making some albums, sweating on stage and knowing a Steve Goodman song don't exactly qualify me for an advisory position but there must be something I can do!

Just the other day Eric and I got word from World Cafe that they were going to run our appearance on January 20 of all days. On one hand I thought well they'll surely pre-empt all the regular radio programming that day for inaugural coverage so that sucks. On the other hand, it felt like a call to duty - our way to participate in the festivities, even if was taped back when McCain/Palin was still a very real possibility.

Well, they've changed the date now to February 3. And I won't be over in the US again until late February or so. I've got to find some other way to contribute, or at least celebrate. I guess I'll go to Paris next week. Strange to think it's the closest to America around here, but these things are all relative.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saying Uncle

I never thought I'd say this, but I simply cannot eat any more oysters and foie gras, or drink any more wine.

That's what the holiday season in France can do to a person. The rare delicacies you see only a few times previously in most of your adult life become so commonplace that you want to go in hiding until it's safe to show up at someone's house again and not be offered such luxury as a matter of course.

Now I'm all about (damn - I swore I would never use that phrase. But at the same time, as I wrote it I felt such a part of things! Maybe I'm alright as long as I stop myself from putting a "the" in front of the next part of this sentence?) I mean I'm concerning myself with exercise, getting my financial mess in order and coming up with that magical list of goals I want to achieve in the coming year. Just like Oprah, and everyone else.

In a few weeks it'll be time to get back on that touring horse. We're heading to Germany, Austria and Switzerland next month and I think we found a new vehicle. It'll save having to wash the old one, plus we're seriously in need of more space. There was a gig we did for a group of attorneys in Birmingham last month and afterwards Eric packed a P.A. system, 3 amps, 5 guitars, a keyboard and various stands and stuff into the back of the humble Ford Escort wagon as the whole law firm looked on in admiration. When he'd finished, one of the lawyers asked if it would seem sarcastic if they applauded - and then they did. I suddenly felt like I was in Chariots of Fire or Goodbye Mr. Chips or something.

We went to look at a van yesterday in La Creuse, one department over. Now we're in a very rural, quiet part of France. So sparsely populated that for the first year or two I was often thinking "These villages are so charming, and it'll really be nice when the people get here." But La Creuse is really empty! Colder, and beautiful,up in the mountains further into the Massif Central. We got to the address where the guy with the van was supposed to be, an old garage, but there was no one around. We walked through the village, Eric, our friend Nick and I and there was nobody. "Look, there's a hotel over there! Maybe we can use the phone." (of course we didn't have a mobile. Remember, we're the only people in Europe etc...) Hotel was closed. "Look, there's another hotel, Hotel Moderne! I bet they'll have a phone." This one was boarded up, and for sale. We finally saw a guy who let us call the van guy and we walked back over to the garage. We had the feeling that our arrival in the village may have been the most exciting thing to happen around there for many years.

We liked the van (an ex-ambulance so that's perfect). If it checks out okay, it's ours. Just the thing for zipping around Europe in. After all the excitement I broke down and had a glass of wine.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ever Hopeful

"After a long wait, your golden year has arrived, dear Aquarius! On January 5, Jupiter will enter Aquarius and crown you the celestial favorite, a title you have not held since 1997. What lies before you is a glorious year of good fortune. You will have good health, support from VIPs, a real shot at finding true love if you're single, and an opportunity to grasp your dream goal. We only get approximately seven of these magnificent years in a lifetime, and 2009 will be one of those shining years for you."
Susan Miller's Astrology Zone

I know it's only astrology but I want this to be true.

In a few weeks I turn fifty. I'm alternately excited and walking around in panic and disbelief. Will anything change? I'm hoping for epiphany but I'll take...acceptance.